Typical Trail Narratives

“But Wilkins, as we said, differed from most of the diarists, whose experiences seemed almost predictable. Many seem to have read other personal experience accounts of the trail, or had come to know what their audience, aural or literary, would expect. A great deal of individuality remains, of course, but it is often expressed within a framework that rapidly became characteristic of the genre. Certain kinds of episodes are almost certain to be related: the dangers in fording the Platte, for instance, or the awe induced by lightning on the prairie, encounters with Indians, accidents to wagon train members, or the inevitable story of the pioneer who wandered off too far from the train and was lost – for a few days or forever. So regularly do the same motifs appear in the Overland Trail narratives that a composite account can be assembled which typifies the genre, though it will not exactly recapitulate any one account.”